Colorado Avalanche: Individuals Battling for More than Just the Hart Trophy

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche poses after winning the Calder Memorial Trophy during the 2014 NHL Awards at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on June 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche poses after winning the Calder Memorial Trophy during the 2014 NHL Awards at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on June 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
ST. LOUIS, MO – MARCH 15: Nathan MacKinnon
ST. LOUIS, MO – MARCH 15: Nathan MacKinnon /

This year’s turnaround should have the Colorado Avalanche contending for a few pieces of hardware.

Nathan MacKinnon is having an MVP calibre season for the Colorado Avalanche. Pundits around the league are taking notice, and more people are championing him for the Hart Memorial Trophy. And it’s tough to argue that any player has been more valuable to their team than MacKinnon is for Colorado.

But that’s not the only individual trophy the organization should be contending for. The incredible improvement should have Avalanche players, coaches and front office in the running for some shiny hardware come awards season.

Most Valuable, Most Outstanding

MacKinnon gets all the press for how valuable he’s been for the Colorado Avalanche. That’s why he should be a lock for the Hart Trophy. There’s nothing to add to the case others have made. MacKinnon has been the league’s most valuable player this year.

But he’s also been the most outstanding. And that has its own award: the Ted Lindsay Trophy. There’s definitely some stiff competition. Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning could go wire to wire leading the league in points.

Not if MacKinnon has anything to say about it. He’s already producing at a higher rate than Kucherov. If it wasn’t for his slow start and his injury, MacKinnon would likely be leading the pack gunning for the Art Ross.

Being injured for eight games obviously hampered Mackinnon’s chances of winning the scoring race. But so did his first month, where he only scored three goals and eight points in 11 games. Which means he’s scored 35 goals and 81 points in the 53 games since, a pace of 1.53 points/game.

Kucherov, on the other hand, had 13 goals and 21 points in 13 October games. Since then, he’s scored 23 goals and 72 points in 56 games for 1.29 points/game.

And since the games started getting bigger, one guy has gotten better. The other has slowed down. MacKinnon has 43 points in 26 games since the calendar turned (1.65 points/game). Kucherov has 37 in 32 games (1.16 points/game). Kucherov has fallen off nearly half a point/ game from the first month. MacKinnon has more than doubled his scoring rate.

And, not for nothing, but he produces goals better than anyone in the league. His .594 goals/game is just a hair above league leader Alex Ovechkin’s .592 (as of time of writing). That number climbs .66 from November on, and .88 in 2018. If he keeps up his torrid pace, he could capture the Rocket Richard to go with the Art Ross.

All while playing significantly fewer games than his competition.

Nathan MacKinnon got off to a slow start, but since November, he has been the league’s best goal scorer and point producer, as well as the most valuable and most outstanding player. He should be rewarded for it.

Jack Adams

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

Boy did Head Coach Jared Bednar have an inauspicious start to his career. His Colorado Avalanche were the worst team in a generation. Now, they’re playing their way into playoff contention. Not just limping into the final wild card, but knocking on the door of the top 3 in the super competitive Central Division.

That’s while tiptoeing around the Matt Duchene saga and managing the Global Series in Sweden. Few coaches had as challenging a season as Bednar, and he’s acquitted himself admirably.

Of course, MacKinnon is a huge part of Bednar’s success. As are a number of others, notably Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie. But coaching the biggest turnaround in the league should earn Bednar some laurels.

Not that it really matters, since Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights sewed up the Jack Adams months ago. Still, being a finalist for the award would be well deserved recognition for his role in the Avalanche’s ascent. It’s even more impressive that the team’s weathered injuries to their best forward, defencemen and goalie and are still in the mix.

Bednar led a really bad team to a horrible finish last year. Now, the Colorado Avalanche, one of the league’s youngest teams, are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Bednar deserves to be acknowledged for his role, even if a big part of his strategy is ‘put the world’s best player on the ice until we win’.


NHL general managers get the most descriptive, but bland, award in the league. For some reason the league decided to go with ‘GM of the Year Award‘, rather than name it after a person. Regardless of what they call the accolade, Joe Sakic deserves to be in the running for it.

Like Bednar, he (and every other GM) has likely already lost to Vegas. George McPhee is the architect of the best expansion team in NHL history. The award is his to lose.

But Sakic put himself in the running. The haul he got for Matt Duchene alone should be enough to move him into the conversation. Adding Alexander Kerfoot and Dominic Toninato has improved both the current roster and the team’s future. He got Nikita Zadorov signed – eventually – to a team friendly deal. Their second round draft pick, Conor Timmins, is already under contract, and could have an impact as early as this season. Unsigned first rounder Cale Makar might as well.

Related Story: Makar Should Stay in the NCAA

Patrick Nemeth, David Warsofsky and especially Gabriel Borque have been competent fill-ins. It took some guts to tacitly admit his mistakes, but he bought out Francois Beauchemin and buried Joe Colborne in the AHL. The room that opened up for better players is a big reason the Avalanche are where they are. Of all Sakic’s moves since the off-season, only Colin Wilson and Nail Yakupov haven’t really panned out.

The result is the team with the fourth lowest cap-hit is contending for the playoffs. And that’s with $6.5 million in buyouts, retained salary, or toiling in the AHL. Sakic’s moves have helped turn the Colorado Avalanche from a surefire lottery team into a playoff contender. Better yet, he’s done it while quickly rebuilding a depleted farm system and without compromising the team’s cap situation.

That’s GM of the Year material.


Pundits rightfully put Nathan MacKinnon forward as a candidate for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. That, however, is not the only piece of hardware that the Colorado Avalanche organization should be in the running for. MacKinnon himself should also be a leading contender for the Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player. He’s already put himself in a position to win the Rocket Richard for top goal scorer and Art Ross as the top scorer.

If he wins the latter two, and the Avalanche make the playoffs, he should be a lock for all four.

Jared Bednar has led one of the league’s youngest teams through extended injuries to key players and firmly into the playoff hunt. He also managed the awkward Matt Duchene drama and trip to Sweden very well. It’s been a dramatic turnaround for both coach and team, and one that should land Bednar in the running for coach of the year.

Finally, Joe Sakic has had a fantastic year as general manager. There have been some hiccups, but the net result is the most exciting team, and deepest farm system, the Colorado Avalanche have had in the salary cap era. And he’s done it while keeping enough cap-space to sign key guys going forward. He also pulled off the biggest trade of the season, and got an overwhelming return under difficult circumstances.

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Sakic, Bednar and especially MacKinnon have put in award worthy performances this season. Each deserves the recognition to show for it.